Saturday, 23 March 2013

Tourism, gender and sexuality

I am continually horrified by the disgraceful, inhuman actions of certain regressive governments towards their female and LGBT citizens. Such governments can be found in countries that are tourism hotspots. I therefore thought I would combine my knowledge of the travel industry with my desire to highlight such evil injustices, and provide alternatives to these intolerant tourist idylls:

The Maldives
Example of why you shouldn't go there: A 15 year-old girl was raped, but is being punished for this with 100 lashes.
Where you should go instead: Lakshadweep Islands. Located just off the coast of India, these perfectly tropical islands have everything the Maldives have, just without the nasty laws

Kenya/Tanzania/Uganda
Why you shouldn't go there: Draconian and particularly harsh punishments against LGBT people.
Where you should go instead: South Africa. One of the first countries in the world to legalise same-sex marriage, South Africa has most of the wildlife you can find in the rest of the continent, as well as those magnificent African savannah landscapes

Jamaica, St Lucia, Antigua, Barbados and many other Caribbean islands
Why you shouldn't go there: Risk of violence towards gay couples, harsh laws and penalties against LGBT people
Where you should go instead: Puerto Rico, where San Juan is considered the gay capital of the Caribbean plus CuraƧao, US Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands, which are courting gay tourists. All have everything you could want from a picture-perfect Caribbean island, minus the homophobia and hate crimes

The Bible Belt, USA
Why you may not want to go there: Being openly gay can still be dangerous in certain parts of the Bible Belt (south eastern and south central USA), plus ruling politicians and general public opinion can be homophobic
Where you should go instead: Unfortunately the architecture and culture of places such as rural Deep South towns cannot be found elsewhere. The good news is that there are havens for LGBT travellers, such as southern Florida and New Orleans. The excellent LGBT Havens map displays details of incredible people willing to help LGBT travellers out, or just listen, in places throughout the States

Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Egyptian Red Sea
Why you shouldn't go there: Harsh punishments for homosexuality and transvestitism
Where you should go instead: The Israeli resort of Tel Aviv boasts long sandy beaches on the warm Mediterranean Sea, along with good weather and fantastic nightlife

Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico
Why you shouldn't go there: Local women and girls face high rates of murder and rape - 710 were murdered in Guatemala last year, and the vast majority of cases are not investigated. Honduras faces similar problems and has banned emergency contraception
Where you should go instead: Belize, where you find Aztec ruins and perfect Caribbean beaches (although very poor for LGBT rights). Costa Rica for more beaches and pristine rainforests

Most of these are third world countries and depend on tourism income. I would be loathe to actually think that no-one should visit these places but I think it very important to be aware of what local women, or fellow travellers, have to suffer. Perhaps, in the right situations, travellers can serve to educate those they meet. Joining an organisation such as Amnesty will also help petition and raise awareness of those governments that officially sanction such abuses.

If there is anywhere that I have missed off, please do let me know.

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